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A few years ago, some friends of mine and I used to go to a local pizzeria to order pies and beers, and then take things to the restaurant’s outdoor bocce ball court. One of the wonderful things about bocce is that it requires just enough skill for you to take the game seriously, but is relaxed enough for everyone to participate. It’s also an incitation to good-natured ribbing. The kind of salty banter that seems irreverent, but is actually brimming with affection. It’s how old friends bond. “Get the fuck outta here, you don’t know how to play bocce,” is the sort of thing I say when I absolutely don’t want you to get out of here, but instead stay and play bocce with me.

The game is simple. Someone pitches a small, white ball that looks like a billiards cue ball past the center mark of a dirt lane. This ball, called the pallino, is the jack or target. The aim is then for you to get your bocce ball as close as possible to the pallino, and doing so takes a lot more skill and finesse than one might think. A bocce ball is somewhat heavy, weighing three pounds, and is about the size of a grapefruit. There’s strategy involved, your pitch needs the right amount of delicacy, and the ball never ends up where you want. For men who are serious about the game – often older New Yorkers of Italian heritage – the only way to properly resolve a close call is with a laser distance measurer. For my friends and me, close calls are just excuses for more chop-busting. 

There’s a sense of languidness in bocce that feels right for summer, even down to the clothes themselves (although Matisse painted his players naked in “Il gioco delle bocce,” you still get that sense of lazy contentment). Part of that is about the era in which bocce was most popular. The game evokes a sense of summer nostalgia, like jumping onto tire swings and diving into lakes, because there was once a time when people actually did all three. Much like how people don’t play in bowling leagues anymore, bocce courts have been disappearing across the US for decades (my local pizzeria eventually took theirs out). You can still find bocce courts here in San Francisco, but they’re often in fancy wine bars and you have to make reservations.

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Even if you can’t find a court this summer, bocce is rife with summer style inspiration. The game requires movement, so a pair of wider cut trousers and some looser camp collar shirts would make for solid game-winning attire. I really like Lemaire’s self-belted trousers this season made from a silky lyocell. You can wear them with the boxier button-ups this season from Margaret Howell, A Vontade, or Olive (all three are comfortably cut, but have a nice silhouette that could be worn on their own or tucked under a topcoat come fall). Looser trousers with O’Ballou’s white tees can range from retro to modern, depending on how you style the combination (see this editorial on N. Hoolywood for something more contemporary). 

Some brands even look as though they were designed with bocce in mind. There’s a sensibility in Camoshita’s relaxed casualwear that somehow seems more Italian than actual Italian casualwear (which, more often than not, is almost indistinguishable these days from the things you’d find at Brooks Brothers). This season, Camoshita has some striped popovers, corduroy shorts, and lightweight chinos that I think would look great with Yuketen’s woven leather sandals, Doek’s canvas court sneakers, or Alden’s chocolate suede penny loafers. You can find the brand at Mr. Porter, Beige Habilleur, No Man Walks Alone, and Trunk Clothiers (the last two are sponsors on this site). 

For something more classic, turn to the simpler combination seen above on Alain Delon – single pleated trousers, slip-on shoes, and a clean linen shirt with the sleeves loosely rolled. Gitman’s sailboat printed shirt or Sugar Cane’s short-sleeved sweatshirt could also look great with 3sixteen’s slim-straight jeans. Lock & Co’s sisal hat would be good for keeping the sun out of your eyes, and should the court not come with its own equipment, you can bring your own in Grei’s washed canvas tote bag. Bocce balls can be bought at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Land’s End, and LL Bean. Visvim even has a $330 designer whistle you can use when the game gets out of hand. When not playing bocce, you can blow it when you see people making flagrant fashion violations. 



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Men’s Guide



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